One of the main impediments of individuals with reading difficulties and individuals with language difficulties is poor working memory. Typically measured using verbal stimuli, working memory deficits have often been considered as one aspect of the phonological difficulty putatively underlying dyslexia. Over the years it has been shown that a broad range of auditory discrimination abilities are also mildly impaired. Here we present evidence that a domain general, rather than a phonology specific, deficits in the ability to implicitly use contextual information, which we term anchoring, can account for both types of deficits. We propose that anchoring ability, which reflects a basic biological mechanism for replacing effortful mechanisms of explicit working memory with automatic mechanisms of implicit memory, and consequently boost performance in both perceptual and cognitive tasks, is a crucial factor in our ability to be expert users of oral and written language. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.